Supermarine Spitfire

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The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used into the 1950s both as a front line fighter and in secondary roles. It was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only Allied fighter in production throughout the war.[5]

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range high-performance interceptor aircraft[6] by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (since 1928 a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong). Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith became chief designer.[7] The Spitfire's elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane.[8] Speed was seen as essential to carry out the mission of home defence against enemy bombers.[6]

During the Battle of Britain there was a public perception that the Spitfire was the RAF fighter of the battle whereas in fact the more numerous Hurricane actually shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe: the Spitfire units did, however, have a lower attrition rate and a higher victory to loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes .[9]

After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became the backbone of RAF Fighter Command and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber, carrier-based fighter, and trainer. It was built in many different variants, using several wing configurations.[10] Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030hp (768 kW), it was adaptable enough to use increasingly more powerful Merlin and the later Rolls-Royce Griffon engines; the latter was eventually able to produce 2,035 hp (1,520  kW).[11]

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