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Overview

The ancestry of the Spitfire can be traced back to the failed Supermarine Type 224, designed to meet the Air Ministry specification F.7/30 by Reginald J. Mitchell, creator of the magnificent Supermarine seaplanes which won three successive Schneider Trophy contests. The Type 224 was a gull-winged monoplane with a fixed "trousered" undercarriage, powered by a 600-h.p. Rolls-Royce engine, and Mitchell was dissatisfied with it even before it flew. He began to design a new aircraft as a private venture; the conception was revised twice, to incorporate the new P.V.12 (Merlin) engine and an eight-gun battery and the final design was accepted by the Air Ministry in January 1935, the new specification F.37/34 being "written around it" for contract purposes. The prototype first flew on 5th March 1936.

The first order for 310 machines was placed three months later, followed by a further 200 the following year shortly before the tragic death of its designer at the age of 42. In April 1938 the Nuffield Organisation was awarded an order for 1,000 Spitfires to be built at a shadow plant planned for Castle Bromwich near Birmingham, and further orders in 1939 brought the number of aircraft on the order book to a total of 2,143 by the outbreak of war.

Between August and December 1938 No. 19 Squadron at Duxford was equipped with the Spitfire Mk.1. By the outbreak of war nine squadrons were fully equipped and two others were in the process of conversion. A total of 1,583 Spitfire Is were built. Deliveries of the Mk. II (basically a Mk. I powered by a 1,175-h.p. Merlin XII) began in June 1940, but widespread re-equipment with the new version did not commence until the following winter, and it was the Mk. 1 which bore the brunt of the fighting during the Battle of Britain; by July 7th nineteen Fighter Command Squadrons were operational with the type.

The Spitfire has always attracted more attention than the Hurricane, and is undoubtedly one of the most famous aircraft ever built. Its graceful lines combined with outstanding handling qualities to produce a "dream plane" extremely fast, and in comparison to contemporary types was second to none.

 

Recognition

Sleek, graceful fuselage, noticeably slimmer than the Hurricane. Domed canopy with a smaller, more angular fin. From below, the wings have a more 'pointed' shape housing the main undercarriage which has a narrow track.

 

Power and specifications
Powerplant One 1,030 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine
Span 36ft 11 in (11.25m)
Length 29ft. 11 in (9.12m)
Max Speed 362 mph (584km/h) at 19,000 ft (5,790m)
Armament Eight .303 in Browning machine guns mounted in wings
 

 

Hawker_Hurricane_Mk_I_of_No._85_Squadron_RAF,_October_1940._CH1501

 

Overview

 

The Hawker Hurricane was the first operational R.A.F. aircraft capable of a top speed in excess of 300 m.p.h. The design of the Hurricane, directed by Sydney Camm, was the outcome of discussions with the Directorate of Technical Development towards the end of 1933, aimed at breaking the deadlocked biplane formula. In these discussions Camm proposed a monoplane, based otherwise on his Fury biplane, using the proposed new Rolls-Royce P.V.12 engine (later to become the Merlin), and in time incorporating a retractable undercarriage. Originally, in concert with current armament requirements, a four-gun battery was proposed; but in 1934, with successful negotiations to licence-build the reliable Colt machine gun, it was deemed possible to mount an eight-gun battery in the wings, unrestricted by the propeller arc and thus dispensing with synchronising gear.

The first Fighter Command squadron to receive Hurricanes was No. 111, commanded by Sqdn. Ldr. John Gillan, based at Northolt before Christmas 1937; and it was the squadron's C.O. who flew one of the new fighters from Turnhouse, Edinburgh to Northolt, London at an average ground speed of 408.75 mph (659.27km/h) - a feat which earned the pilot the nickname "Downwind Gillan" for all time. Nos. 3 and 56 Squadrons took delivery during 1938, though the latter was not operational at the time of the Munich Crisis in September of that year. By the outbreak of war a year later 497 Hurricanes had been completed from an order book totalling no less than 3,500. At about this time the Gloster Aircraft Company started sub-contract manufacture of the standard Mark 1, which was now emerging from the factories with metal wings and three-blade variable-pitch propellers. One final refinement was adopted between the outbreak of war and the opening of the Battle of Britain; this was the Rotol constant-speed propeller which, apart from enabling the pilot to select an optimum pitch for take-off, climb, cruise And combat (thus bestowing a better performance under some of these conditions) also prevented the engine from overheating in a dive.

A total of 1,715 Hurricanes flew with Fighter Command during the period of the Battle, far in excess of all other British fighters combined. Having entered service a year before the Spitfire, the Hurricane was "half-a-generation" older, and was markedly inferior in terms of speed and climb. However, the Hurricane was a robust, manoeuvrable aircraft capable of sustaining fearsome combat damage before write-off; and unlike the Spitfire, it was a wholly operational, go-anywhere do-anything fighter by July 1940. It is estimated that its pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the period July-October 1940.

 

Recognition

Stubby, angular fuselage with large rounded fin and flat, heavily-framed canopy. From below, the wings have rounded tips and the undercarriage has a wide track.

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Power and specifications
Powerplant One 1,030 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine
Span 40ft 0in (12.19m)
Length 31ft 4in (9.55m)
Max Speed 328 mph (529km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,095m)
Armament Eight .303 in Browning machine guns mounted in wings
Accommodation Pilot only