Military Aviation

Seafires Vs ‘Hooked Spitfires:’ a quick look at the difference between a Seafire and a standard Spitfire fitted with an arrestor hook

What is the difference between a Seafire and a ‘Hooked Spitfire’ — a standard Spitfire fitted with an arrestor hook — a great many of which were operated by Fleet Air Arm?

The naval version of the immortal Spitfire had a complicated and sometimes difficult journey into service, but it finally arrived with front-line Fleet Air Arm (FAA) Squadrons at just the right time. As told by Naval aviation historian Matthew Willis in his book Supermarine Seafire, the Seafire was by no means ideal as a naval fighter – lacking endurance and being difficult to land on a carrier – but it gave the Royal Navy an interceptor with superlative performance in the air, helping to turn the tables on the enemy as the Allies went on the offensive.

The Seafire served in the Second World War from the North Atlantic to Japan, and into the 1950s, seeing action in Malaya and Korea.

But what is the difference between a Seafire and a ‘Hooked Spitfire’ — a standard Spitfire fitted with an arrestor hook — a great many of which were operated by the FAA? The first Seafire variant, the Mk lb, had no folding wings, no catapult spools, and its only major external modification was an arrestor hook. Every Seafire lb was converted from a Spitfire. In their essentials, there was little difference.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb – W3257 E-FY – 1941

The most basic answer is that Seafires were ordered as such, through a contract for front-line aircraft placed with a manufacturer or similar company, while hooked Spitfires were aircraft transferred from RAF stocks for second-line purposes and converted as required, generally by Maintenance Units. The detail is bound up in those contracts.

Seafire conversions incorporated all the detail changes required for naval service, which included equipment as radio sets and beacon receivers which enabled pilots to communicate with and find their ship, including a wireless telegraphy set with Morse key.

The myriad small details to fit the Seafire for the conditions of naval use included de-icing fittings for the radio aerials, a shutter for the air intake (fitted to all Seafires but only tropicalised Spitfires) and a rack for signal cartridges — mostly unnecessary on hooked Spitfires.

Supermarine Seafire is published by Mortons Books and is available to order here along with many other beautiful aviation books. Save 10% on all books with exclusive promotional code ‘AVGEEK10’!

Photo credit: Imperial War Museum and Charles Daniels British Aircraft Album via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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