The slight edge

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The slight edge

That question has been asked by pilots, historians and air enthusiasts since It does not have a definitive answer, however, each aircraft had its strong points and its disadvantages.

Although both aircraft played a decisive role in the Battle of Britain they could not have been more different from one another. Each was created under a completely different set of circumstances and came from totally different backgrounds and antecedents.

The Spitfire owed its famous graceful lines and speed to its early ancestors, evolving as a fighter from a series of extremely successful racing seaplanes that were designed in the s—and s. All of those racers were built by the firm of Supermarine Ltd.

The innovative Mitchell has been called one of the most brilliant designers Britain has ever produced. His The slight edge really were ahead of their time. Inwhen he began building racing airplanes, streamlining was considered more a theoretical exercise than an engineering possibility.

But Mitchell made engineering theories more than just possibilities; he turned them into brilliant successes. Inhis S.

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Four years later, his elegant S. Later, on September 29,his S. The Supermarine firm had been taken over by the industrial giant Vickers by this time; the new corporation was known as Supermarine Aviation Works Vickers Ltd. The first prototype of the aircraft that would become known as the Spitfire was an odd-looking affair.

Officially designated the F.

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Mitchell was not satisfied with his F. For one thing, it was underpowered—its Rolls-Royce Goshawk II engine gave it a speed of only mph. So he began to experiment. He added a larger engine, enclosed the cockpit, and gave his new fighter a retractable undercarriage with smaller, thinner wings.

Mitchell continued to modify his design in and The larger engine he had in mind was supplied by Rolls-Royce—a new, cylinder, liquid-cooled power plant called simply the PV Rolls-Royce would rename this engine the Merlin—a name that would become legend among aircraft power plants.

The new fighter, now designated the F. The Merlin engine promised to give it all the speed Mitchell wanted and the Air Ministry would require. For armament, he gave his fighter four wing-mounted. Recent tests had shown that the minimum firepower needed to shoot down an enemy bomber was six or, preferably, eight guns, each capable of firing 1, rounds per minute.

With that armament, it was estimated that a pilot would need only two seconds to destroy an enemy bomber in the air-the time during which a fighter pilot would be able to keep the enemy in his sights, it was thought.

Dowding had the future in mind.

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Frequently bought together A Reference Resource and Historical Archive.

His farsightedness would pay off eight years later, inwhen he was chief of RAF Fighter Command. With that armament, along with the RollsRoyce Merlin engine and the other features he had designed, Mitchell knew that his fighter would be a match for any aircraft the Luftwaffe might produce.

Now all he had to do was convince the Air Ministry. Mitchell's masterpiece, the prototype Supermarine Spitfire.

It had been given a name-the Spitfire-by Vickers and made official by the Air Ministry. It was unarmed and fitted with a fixed-pitch wooden propeller. With a maximum speed of mph, the plane was classed as the fastest military aircraft in the world. Six hundred more were ordered the next year.

Mitchell never lived to see the success of his creation. Inat the age of 42, he died of cancer.

The slight edge

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The slight edge

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Although the relative merits of the two World War II aircraft continue to be debated, the dissimilar stablemates complemented one another in combat and together saved a country. UFC/MMA odds comparison service.

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