Friday, April 17, 2009

Supermarine Seafang


While land-based jets were coming of age by 1944-45, the learning curve for introducing turbine engined aircraft to naval aviation was considerably steeper. Operating first generation jets, with their low thrust and long throttle response times from war-built carriers was somewhat daunting at first, and thus the idea of operating a final generation of propeller driven aircraft was favorable received in some naval circles. The Spitfire had spawned the carrier-based Seafire, so it was logical that that a "naval Spiteful", later named Seafang, might also prove itself suited for this role.

The first Seafang prototype was actually a Spiteful Mk. 15 fitted with a tailhook for arrested landings, this being the aircraft's only real alteration for naval operations. A further pair of test machines were closer to production standard; the F. Mk. 31 had a lengthened undercarriage and Griffon 61 engine, while the F.32 featured folding wings, as well as the Griffon 89 engine and contrarotating propellor configuration of the Spiteful Mk. 15.

Although the Fleet Air Arm would indeed operate piston powered aircraft well into the 1950s, the Seafang would not be among them. Later Seafire models with similar performance were availible in quantity, while new designs such as the Hawker Sea Fury were nearly ready. Thus, plans for 150 production Seafangs were curtailed, and only eight Mk.31s and ten Mk.32s were built, with many of these going straight from the assembly line to the scrapyard.

Although the Spiteful never entered service, Supermarine did make the most of its work on the project, using the Spiteful wing on its Attacker jet fighter, which would see operational service with the FAA.

Unusually for a very limited production subject, the Seafang is available in a 1/72-scale injection molded kit, from AZmodel:
Seafang Mk.32 kit

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