SPITFIRE Mk VIII

The VIII was very much like the VII. It was a properly engineered airframe to mount the new Merlin engines in. It had a retractable tail-wheel, pointed rudder and a neat tropical filter, which did not impede performance. The VIII came in three versions:- The FVIII was the normal fighter version. The LFVIII was a low altitude version with a Merlin 66 engine and the HFVIII was optimised for high altitude with extended wing- tips and a Merlin 70 engine, but no cabin pressurisation. The VIII was perhaps the nicest version of the Spit to fly. However production was slow to start and most went to the Middle or Far East. The need to get Spitfires with the new engines into production and out to the squadrons as fast as possible to counter the “Focke-Wulf” scourge meant that priority was given to the easier-to-produce Mk IX. The VIII had armament of two cannons and four machine guns. Production of the VIII was 1,658 airframes.

Supermarine Spitfire VIII: Similar to Mk VII but without pressurised cockpit. Armament as Mk VC, structural and systems improvements as Mk VII, enlarged rudder (except first few aircraft) and compact Aero-Vee tropical filter as standard. Prototype development included Mk III (N3297) fitted with Merlin 61 early-1942. Production (Supermarine Type 360) totalled 1,658 by Supermarine in three designated sub-variants according to altitude rating of engine: Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk VIII with 1,705 hp Merlin 66; Supermarine Spitfire F Mk VIII with 1,565 hp Merlin 61 or 1,710 hp Merlin 63; and Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIII with 1,655 hp Merlin 70. Most Supermarine Spitfire VIIIs flew with standard-span wing, but extended or clipped tips used as required operationally without change of designation. Service introduction, mid-1943, principally in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, including some SAAF squadrons. Later, Supermarine Spitfire VIIIs replaced Mk VCs in squadrons operating in the CBI theatre and equipped units of the Indian Air Force. In 1944, RAAF took on charge 251 LF Mk VIIIs for its squadrons in New Guinea; 159 more Mk VIIIs were received post-war. In fighter-bomber role, some Mk VIIIs carried two 500-lb (227-kg) bombs under fuselage; later aircraft used 45-Imp gal (205-1) teardrop long-range tanks in place of earlier slipper type.

The Spitfire Mk. VIII was basically a non-pressurized version of the Mk. VII. The Mk.VIII featured a stronger fuselage than earlier Spitfires and a retractable tail wheel. Ironically, the Mk. VIII entered service after the Mk. IX, which was built as a “stopgap” fighter following the long teething period experienced by the Mk. VIII. First ordered in July 1942, Supermarine built nearly 1,658 Mk. VIIls by the end of 1945.