SEAFIRE MkXVII SX336

Seafire XVII SX336 was built just just 15 miles from the Navy Wings heritage hangar by Westland, Yeovil in April 1946 and re-built by Kennet Aviation at North Weald nearly 60 years later.

She entered service with the Royal Navy in 1946 at RNAS Bramcote in Warwickshire and it is thought that she served with 833NAS, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

By 1953 she was transferred to RNAS Stretton near Warrington to be held in storage before it was decided that she should be scrapped in 1955.

It wasn’t until 1973 that her fuselage was discovered in a derelict state and it was another 5 years before her restoration began in 1978.  Ownership of the aircraft changed hands several times and it was only in the ownership of former US Navy pilot and entrepreneur, Tim Manna, that she was finally rebuilt and restored to full flying condition by Kennet Aviation at North Weald.

A certificate of Airworthiness was issued in 2003 and she conducted her first post-restoration flight in 2006. She flies in the markings of 776 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton with 105 on the rear fuselage and the RNAS Yeovilton code VL on the tail. Seafire SX336 is no stranger to Navy Wings, having been affiliated to us as an associate aircraft since she was restored.

Navy Wings acquired the aircraft from our long-time supporter, Tim Manna, in November 2021 and she will take her place in the heritage hangar alongside our other historic aircraft.

HISTORY

The Supermarine Seafire was a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire adapted to become a high performance carrier-based fighter aircraft.

The idea of developing a navalised carrier-capable version of the Supermarine Spitfire had been discussed by the Admiralty as early as May 1938. Despite a pressing need to replace various types of obsolete aircraft that were still in operation with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), some opposed the notion, although these disputes were often a result of an overriding priority being placed on maximising production of land-based Spitfires instead. During 1941 and early 1942, the concept was again pushed for by the Admiralty, culminating in an initial batch of Seafire Mk Ib fighters being provided in late 1941, which were mainly used for pilots to gain experience operating the type at sea.

From 1942 onwards, additional Seafire models were quickly ordered, including the first operationally-viable Seafire F Mk III variant. This led to the type rapidly spreading throughout the FAA. In November 1942, the first combat use of the Seafire occurred during Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa.

In July 1943, the Seafire was used to provide air cover for the Allied invasion of Sicily; and reprised this role in September 1943 during the subsequent Allied invasion of Italy. During 1944, the type was again used in quantity to provide aerial support to Allied ground forces during the Normandy landings and Operation Dragoon in Southern France. During the latter half of 1944, the Seafire became a part of the aerial component of the British Pacific Fleet, where it quickly proved to be a capable interceptor against the feared kamikaze attacks by Japanese pilots which had become increasingly common during the final years of the Pacific War.

The Seafire continued to be used for some time after the end of the war. The FAA opted to withdraw all of its Merlin-powered Seafires and replace them with Griffon-powered counterparts. The type saw further active combat use during the Korean War, in which FAA Seafires performed hundreds of missions in the ground attack and combat air patrol roles against North Korean forces during 1950.

The Seafire was withdrawn from service during the 1950s.

In FAA service, the type had been replaced by the newer Hawker Sea Fury, the last piston engine fighter to be used by the service, along with the first generation of jet-propelled naval fighters, such as the de Havilland Vampire, Supermarine Attacker, and Hawker Sea Hawk.

OPERATING SPECIFICATION

387

Top Speed

460

Range

32,000

Ceiling

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

CREW – 1

FLIGHT SPECS

Speed – 387mph (623km/h) at 13,500ft (4,115m)
Range – approximately 460 miles (740km)
Ceiling – 32,000ft

DIMENSIONS

Length – 32ft 3in (9.83m)
Wingspan – 36ft 10in (11.23m)

ENGINE

1 x Rolls-Royce Griffon VI (RG 14SM) liquid-cooled inline piston engine capable of producing 1,850hp (1,380kW) at 2,000ft (610m)

ARMAMENT

2 x20mm Hispano cannon,
4x.303in Browning machine guns,
Up to 500lb (227kg) of external ordnance