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Dragon vs Spitfires

Published May 25, 2015 in Fantasy , Military - 0 Comments
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A while back, I responded to the fantasy hypothetical: who would win if a dragon fought an Apache Attack Helicopter? Anybody familiar with modern armament should know how that paring turned out.

This morning, I received the following message over Twitter:

Hiya ūüôā Tell me; if a dragon fighting for the Nazis fought against four pilots flying Spitfires during the Battle of Britain who would win?

Philip Tolhurst

"George and the Dragon" by Philip Tolhurst

“George and the Dragon” by Philip Tolhurst

It turns out that Philip has already taken his own stab at the question in his book George and the Dragon. A book which has just catapulted pretty high up my “to-read” list, because it sounds awesome. Until I get a chance to read it, though, let’s take a look at the question:

Dragon vs Spitfires: Who would win?

This fight is going to be far more interesting than the Apache fight.

The Supermarine Spitfire was an interesting plane, and pretty advanced for its day. The aircraft had several armament variations, which would obvious affect the outcome of the battle. Early versions carried four .303 Browning machine guns. Later versions carried eight of these guns.¬†These guns had a tendency to freeze at high altitude that wasn’t corrected until 1938 – that would definitely put a kink in things.

Unlike the modern Apache, the .303 ammunition would not have been depleted uranium, since the material wasn’t really available until the 1970s. However, they could have had access to steel core ammunition rather than lead, and probably would have used it if needed.

The Spitfire also set speed and altitude records for its day: 606mph and 50,000 feet. Neither of those is shabby. That’s just shy of the speed of sound and¬†nearly ten miles up. The¬†aircraft was known to be more maneuverable than other airframes of the day, which is a definite plus.

However, the Spitfire also needed an average of 4500 rounds to shoot down an enemy aircraft. That’s a lot of rounds, and a typical enemy aircraft wouldn’t be anywhere near as well armored as a dragon. On the other hand, the scenario posits four Spitfires. Four to one seems to improve the odds somewhat.

Whereas an Apache would out and out destroy the dragon, this is a far more interesting match. And at the end of the day, the outcome is going to come down to these factors:

  • How powerful¬†is the dragon in question?
  • How smart is the dragon in question?
  • How good are the tactics of the Spitfire squadron?

Without an element of surprise, my money is on the Spitfires – but I doubt they’d win every time. But more often than not. Probably three out of four encounters, maybe as many as seven out of eight.

This is where an author could have a lot of fun, and create some pretty good drama. Because this is a fight that’s close enough to even that any particular instance of the fight could legitimately go either way. And that’s a great source of drama, which is why I’m definitely interested in¬†George and the Dragon. Also, I love the title and its play on the famous English legend.

My take: if the dragons catch the English by surprise, it goes badly at first. Then they adjust their tactics, maybe tweak some weaponry, and end up winning in glory at the end of the tale. Which is probably exactly what happens in the book. But that’s a great layout for a story that has an awesome setup and promises to be a lot of fun.

I will let you all know after I’ve had time to read it!

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