The 'first' Spitfire the Type 224 would prove unsuccessful and would never enter production ending its days as a target on a firing range. Despite this important data was gleaned from the Supermarine
Type 224 project which would help the company in their future monoplane fighter designs.
With the release in October 1931 by the Air Ministry of Specification F.7/30 the search for a successor to the Gloster Gauntlet, which was still four years away from entering service, began. The
intended day and night fighter was to be able to reach 250 mph, be all metal and have armament consisting of four machine-guns. Other requested requirements included good pilot visibility, low
landing speed and long endurance although any engine could power the aircraft.
The Supermarine design would have to compete against seven other entries and the Type 224, as it was known, was a monoplane featuring a inverted gull wing, similar to the
Vought F4U Corsair, and
fixed undercarriage. The engine chosen by the company was the 600-hp Rolls Royce Kestrel IV which would later be renamed the Goshawk II. An experimental engine this was cooled by evaporation as
opposed to the normal radiator engines which meant less water was needed and thus saved weight. As required by the Specification four machine-guns would be fitted one in each side of the
undercarriage fairings and one in each wing near the cockpit.
Using the gull wing design which was laterally unstable, meaning the aircraft moved from side to side whilst in flight, lead to the design undergoing heavy testing in the wind tunnel which
showed that the aircraft was directionally unstable. To resolve this issue the fin area was increased.
In the hands of J 'Mutt' Summers Supermarine's new fighter, which was unofficially named the Spitfire, made its maiden flight on the 19th February 1934. However the top speed of the Type 224 was
only 228 mph some 22 mph down on the requirement and only 18mph faster than the Gauntlet which it was intended to replace. Making an appearance at the Royal Air Force Display at Hendon on the 30th
June 1934 this was to be it for the Type 224 as in the end it was to be the Gloster Gladiator, which was born out of a design study of the Gauntlet, which was chosen.
Only one example was built and this arrived at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath on the 25th May 1937 where it was used on a firing range as a target.
Whilst the Type 224 never enter production the experience and data gained from the aircraft would prove beneficial for Supermarine's next design, the Spitfire.