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Fleet Air Arm Seafire XV in flight photo displayed at Naval Museum of Manitoba 01

 Fleet Air Arm Seafire XV in flight photo displayed at Naval Museum of Manitoba 01

Supermarine Seafire

The Supermarine Seafire was a naval version of the Supermarine Seafire specially adapted for operation from aircraft carriers. The name Seafire was arrived at by collapsing the longer name Sea Seafire.

The Admiralty first showed an interest in the idea of a carrier-borne Seafire in May 1938 when during a meeting with Richard Fairey of Fairey Aviation the proposal was made that his company could design and build such an aircraft. The idea met with a negative response and the matter was dropped. As a result the FAA was forced into having to order Blackburn Rocs and Gloster Sea Gladiators both of which proved to be woefully inadequate.

The matter of a seaborne Seafire was raised again in November 1939 when the Air Ministry allowed a Commander Ermen to fly a Seafire I. After his first flight in R6718 Ermen learned that Joseph Smith, Chief Designer at Supermarine had been instructed to fit an "A-frame" arrestor hook on a Seafire and that this had flown on 16 October; a drawing of this aircraft had been shown to the Fleet Air Arm on 27 October. After further discussions Supermarine submitted a drawing of a Seafire with folding wings and an arrestor hook. In this case the wings were designed with a fold just outboard of the undercarriage bays; the outer wings would swivel and fold backwards, parallel with the fuselage. On 29 February 1940 the Admiralty asked the Air Ministry to sanction the production of 50 folding wing Seafires, with the first deliveries to start in July. However, for various reasons Winston Churchill who was First Lord of the Admiralty stepped in and cancelled the order, writing to Lord Beaverbrook:

I regard it as of very great importance that the production of Fulmars should be kept going.

It would take over 18 months before the first Seafires were built.


This webpage was updated 6th June 2021