WW2 fighter blueprint drawings - total number?

newsdeskdan

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Quick question - does anyone know a rough ballpark figure for how many individual component blueprint drawings would be required to build a WW2 fighter (excluding pre-made components, such as the weapons, radio, engine etc.)?
Let's say, for example, a new production line was being set up to build Spitfires and all spars, wing ribs, instrument panels, brackets, undercarriage retraction systems, control linkage systems etc. were being made on site (or you needed a full set of master copy drawing before dishing some out to subcontractors). How many drawings in total would that be? A few hundred? A few thousand?
 

Zoo Tycoon

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A Spitfire mk 9 is around 10000 individual part and assembly drawings just for the airframe. The RAF drawing collection is incomplete. The trick is figuring out the latest modification standard;- I.e each drawing will have a release issue which gets updated every time a modification was introduced. Many modification were embodied to solve problems as they occurred in service and in the majority of cases were needed to maintain airworthiness. The modification list is complex and was poorly documented, so is still the subject of some conjecture. The configured drawing set (full mod std) used by some of the major rebuilders is thier closely guarded information and has taken years to pull together.

Many piece of equipment such as engine, prop, landing gears, instruments etc were purchased against specifications and could themselves contain thousands to hundreds of individually drawn parts. The drawing sets for a lot of these no longer exists eg the DH bracket props used on the early marks, so these had to be recreated from very scant data to get the Mk1/2 flying again. This was significant and costly undertaking.

A Hawker Typhoon airframe is around 12000 drawings.
 

newsdeskdan

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Thanks for the above responses kitnut617, Zoo Tycoon and Foo Fighter. How many drawings do you suppose would be required for a brand new prototype? So no modifications, no updates and no variants - just the first iteration of everything. Would 500 drawings cover it? Maybe 1000?
 

Zoo Tycoon

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It depends on the structural design of your subject. A prototype Spitfire airframe would still need probably around 8000 drawings (minus armament and role specific stuff) well because there’s a lot of bits;- just look at the bolted rib structure in the wing for example, every individual square tube will have a drawing, as will all the bolting detail parts, sheet components will need drawings of both preform flat/formed and every bolted joint will be drawn in in final form, maybe 100 plus drawings per wing rib . However a modern light aircraft with a monocoque composite structure is far more simple so it’s a lot less, maybe less than a thousand;- there’s far fewer ribs in the wing and they’re generally single piece items so just one or two drawings per rib. Of course in these modern times we don’t so much have drawings, it’s all model based.
 
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Foo Fighter

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I have no clue but, one frame of the Spitfire MK VII I mentioned is 20.7MB. How that relates to drawings I have zero clue, sorry.
 

DWG

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And if you're setting up a new production line, do you also need drawings of tooling and jigs as well?
 

newsdeskdan

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And if you're setting up a new production line, do you also need drawings of tooling and jigs as well?

No - I have a set of blueprints and I'm not sure how complete it is. It sort of looks complete-ish but there could easily be vast quantities missing.
 

sienar

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10s of thousands, but its hard to know an exact figure for just one variant. There is some >40k drawings for the F4U that I know of and that isn't complete, but it does include a bunch of variants, proposals, ect.

If you have the index than you can get an idea of what drawings may be missing.
 

aim9xray

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Another way to attack the problem would be to get the Illustrated Parts Catalog or Illustrated Parts Breakdown (US Tech Manual Usage). US Military IPBs have a tab run (listing) of all of the part numbers in the catalog, and this can be very handy for establishing the the canonical parts numbering assignments, assemblies and therefore, the drawing tree (because the drawing and the part have the same number). Once you have a baseline drawing tree, you can crosscheck against your blueprint listing and see what you have and reverse engineer an EO (Engineering Order) list or change list against that drawing.

(Caution, this may not go down to the most granular part, perhaps down only to the sub-subassembly, as that might have been the most economical way of ordering and supplying repair parts. Welcome to the wonderful world of Logistics Support Analysis!).

Anyhow, this might help you get a "30,000 foot" view of the problem rather than being down in the weeds.*

*Assuming that they used a drawing tree to assign numbers. Older practice was: when you started a drawing you went to the drawing window or clerk and got the next number available. So the wing spar drawing *could* come after the drawing for the relief tube.
 

Hood

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This question could probably be best answered by the restoration industry, they seem to amass fairly large sets of drawings, although in fairness they can achieve miracles even where plans are missing and its not like that they have to manufacture every item given some spares exist.
 

Zoo Tycoon

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No - I have a set of blueprints and I'm not sure how complete it is. It sort of looks complete-ish but there could easily be vast quantities missing.

Please tell which aeroplane and/or the number of drawings in your possession?

A while back I helped out a friend by examining four and a half thousand drawings (on aperture cards) which were “A scheme”detail drawings for the Hawker Typhoon. From a combination of missing sheets, missing drawings numbers referenced in other drawing notes and gaps in the scheme numbers I was able to estimate that there were approx. eight thousand missing.
 

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