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The Supermarine Spitfire designed by R. J. Mitchell

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The Spitfire

The Roles of the Spitfire and Hurricane in World War Two

The Merlin piston-engined Supermarine Spitfire was one of the most famous aircraft in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and its finest hour came during the Battle of Britain in 1940 when, together with the Hurricane, they flew in defence over British towns, cities and rural countryside and destroyed many incoming German aircraft of the Luftwaffe. During the combat the Spitfire was outnumbered by the Hurricane although it did have a higher victory-to-loss ratio. This enabled the more-powerful Spitfire to be used mainly to attack German fighters, particularly the Bf 109s, leaving the Hurricanes free to deal with the German bombers.

The Spitfire was designed by R. J. Mitchell the chief engineer at Vickers Supermarine who wanted to create a high-performance interceptor and fighter aircraft and its success was due to the unique design, which included the distinctive elliptical wing. The Spitfire first flew on 5 March 1936 and Vickers Joseph Smith continued the design after Mitchell died in 1937. The RAF quickly placed orders for these new aircraft and a Spitfire production line was set up in Southampton. The RAF's first Spitfire squadron took delivery of these new aircraft in 1938 and by the time of the Battle of Britain there were 19 squadrons in operation. The Spitfire saw its first combat operation in World War II protecting the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. It was a classic defence aircraft and the design was further improved in 1942 to accommodate the bigger and more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon engine.

Throughout the Second World War the Spitfire continued to play many different roles including that of photo-reconnaissance. It was also used by other air forces around the world, and played important roles in defending the Mediterranean island of Malta. The aircraft flew with the Soviet Air Force on the Eastern Front and was also involved with the defence of Singapore during the Malaya campaign.

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